International Women's Day 2023

  • 08 Mar 2023

For #IWD2023  the NUJ says the best way to improve women’s rights in the workplace is to join the union

March 8 is International Women’s Day which celebrates women’s achievements and calls out inequality.

The NUJ’s Equality Council is using the day to persuade union members to recruit a woman to the union.

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is embracing equity. Equity is not about making sure everyone has the same, equal opportunity. It is about recognising for certain groups of people barriers need to be removed so they can get access these opportunities. In the workplace it is a systemic approach to ensure that policies address the specific needs of disabled workers, or black women so they are recognised for their talents and have a fair crack getting the jobs and promotion their better connected or non-disabled colleagues achieve.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

“This International Women’s Day we are asking you to recruit a woman to the NUJ. By joining our union they will become part of a movement which is fighting for equity in the workplace. It is the union movement pressing employers to address the pay gaps that yawn between men and women and those which see disabled and minority ethnic workers being paid less.

“It is also the passport for a journey that will see you meet a great bunch of women who can help you with your career and your progression in the workplace.

“Unions want to see radical change that addresses the barriers excluding so many, particularly in the media. There are many women who would flourish in newsrooms and publishing houses, but they don’t have the contacts, they don’t know who to write to or email, they can’t afford to build up stints of exploitative, unpaid work experience.

"Or maybe they have the experience already, but simply need some additional flexibility, some practical equipment, or a change in working pattern so they can work on equal terms with colleagues. Often it is the union rep who makes that happen.

"That is why the NUJ says #EmbraceEquity.

There are many reasons for women to join the NUJ. Here are just a few:

“Join the NUJ to combat gendered ageism in the workplace and fight for equal training and career opportunities for older women in the media.”  Jenny Sims, freelance and co-chair NUJ 60+ Council.

"It's fantastic to join a union, I've been given brilliant training, and through my union role helped to shape policy by bringing in gender diverse interview panels at the BBC, and therefore increasing equality for women."  Leoni Robertson, NEC Black Members Seat. 

“When that office banter is actually sexual harassment, we’ll call it out.”  Christina Lago, Equality Council member.

“IWD is not only an opportunity to celebrate women’s achievements, but also to draw attention to many issues women still face in the workplace, such as pay parity, flexible working,  pregnancy and maternity discrimination.  We campaign to end violence and abuse against women. In 2022, UNESCO’s global survey showed that 73 per cent of the women journalists surveyed reported having faced online violence while doing their job.  Join the NUJ in defending women’s rights and #EmbraceEquity.” Natasha Morris,  NUJ legal and equality officer said           

“A woman's place is in her union and as a freelance being part of a network of mutual support is part of my every day. The NUJ is the union for freelance journalists and has a freelance charter that promotes and supports our rights.” Caroline Holmes, head of NUJ trade union training.  Fair Deal for Freelances

“Join the NUJ. We fight for equal pay in the BBC and everywhere else.” Raj Ford, BBC secondee. BBC presenter Samira Ahmed on how the NUJ won her case when she found a male colleague was paid six times more than her.

I’m an NUJ activist because the union is committed to understanding how disabled women, LBT+ women, Black women, self-employed or freelance women and other groups of women media workers are impacted by different issues. Covid safety remains an urgent workplace issue. Two million people in the UK have Long Covid at the moment. And 57 per cent of those are women.” Ann Galpin, chair of NUJ disabled members’ council and co-chair of TUC disabled workers’ committee.

Meet some of our women members.  And NUJ vice-president Natsha Hirst explains how she has benefited from being a union activist.

Women’s safety

The NUJ has launched a set of safety films featuring journalists across the UK and Ireland who have experienced abuse and harassment because of their work. The union has released clips of members discussing sexist trolling, death threats and racist abuse. The videos have been shown in Parliament and to ministers at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport as part of the union’s work as a member of the National Committee for the Safety of Journalist. The union’s mobile safety toolkit has lots of advice and places to go for help for women media workers to help protect themselves from online and other abuse.

To mark International Women’s Day, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its gender council have put women reporting conflicts in the spotlight as part of a series of interviews to highlight the daily challenges they face, their safety needs and the importance for governments across the world to adopt international instruments that outlaw violence and attacks against journalists. From covering wars to protest movements, women journalists working in conflict zones take immense risks in the name of freedom of information. Fighting government censorship, retaliation and deconstructing disinformation are a daily challenge for many. The NUJ and IFJ have urged governments across the world to fight impunity for violence perpetrated against women journalists by ratifying ILO Convention No. 190 against violence and harassment in the world of work and support the IFJ-led Convention on the safety and independence of journalists and media workers. 

Equal Pay and gender pay gaps

The gender pay gap is the difference between the average earnings of men and women, expressed relative to men's earnings. Companies with more than 250 employees must publish their gender pay gap data and a written statement on their company websites and report their data to government online, but the NUJ encourages all media companies to collect the data and pursue policies to eliminate the gap. The NUJ’s campaign page provides information, campaign materials and template letter to start the discussion at your organisation. The union is also fighting for mandatory collection of disability and ethnicity pay gaps.

The average woman in paid employment effectively worked for free for nearly two months of the year compared to the average man, a TUC analysis revealed last month. The gender pay gap stands at 14.9 per cent. This means that working women must wait 54 days – or two months – before they stop working for free on Women’s Pay Day – this year it was Thursday 23 February. The gap is wider for older women. The union is also fighting for mandatory collection of disability and ethnicity pay gaps.

A report by the consultancy group PwC said women in Britain were subject to a growing gender gap because of the cost of childcare. Data for 2021 showed the gender pay gap widening four times faster in the UK than the average for the 38 rich-country members of the OECD. Larice Stielow, a senior economist at PwC, said: “An 18-year-old woman entering the workforce today will not see pay equality in her working lifetime. At the rate the gender pay gap is closing, it will take more than 50 years to reach gender pay parity. The motherhood penalty is now the most significant driver of the gender pay gap.”

The Equality Act 2010 gives men and women the right to be paid the same for carrying out work that is broadly the same or rated as equivalent. The NUJ has won members millions of pounds in backpay and compensation over unequal pay.


The NUJ provides free training for those wanting to become an equality rep. Once you have completed Stage 1 of the reps’ training, you can go to learn more about how to raise, promote and embed equality into the mainstream bargaining agenda. The TUC is running a free, online introduction to the role of health and safety rep for women on Thursday 23 March from 10:00 to 15:00.

Global solidarity

The NUJ works with the International Federation of Journalists in solidarity with our international sisters. The 2022 report The Chilling: A global study of online violence against women journalists found that 20 per cent of the women surveyed said that online abuse had led to targeting offline. While online abuse has a significant psychological impact, in other cases such as that of Maltese journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, there was a direct link to her murder.

The research found that 41 per cent of the abuse was part of orchestrated disinformation campaigns by government states. In all cases, it is about trying to silence women’s voices. It works: many women withdrew from social media and avoided writing about certain topics.

The NUJ supports the International Labour Organisation’s Convention 190 on violence and harassment in the world of work, which came into force in 2021 and provides a framework and blueprint for unions to use as part of collective bargaining and workplace polices for all workers, freelance and staff. It has been ratified by 21 countries, but more need to follow suit.

Women & sports journalism

The NUJ is supporting the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) campaign to boost the number of women sports journalists. In 2021, only seven per cent of those registering for NCTJ-accredited sports journalism courses were women. This increased to 14 per cent in 2022 – still a long way from the NCTJ’s 25 per cent target. Join a lunchtime NCTJ online event today at 12.15 to celebrate women in sports journalism and to inspire others to pursue a rewarding career in this sector.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

“The dearth of female bylines in most newspapers’ back pages is a real cause of concern, particularly with the recent successes in women’s football, rugby and cricket. Sports journalism is a great career and should be open to everyone. When you’re more likely to see a woman on the frontline of a war than the touchline of football match, something is seriously wrong in journalist recruitment. The sports media must start to be more welcoming of women – there are plenty of excellent women to be seen in broadcasting, so positive role models exist. Football and other sporting clubs must open their doors to women and have zero tolerance to sexism. We know women sports writers can find themselves subject to online abuse – behaviour the social media platforms should be clamping down on more robustly and swiftly. The NUJ will always support women sports journalists in their work.”

The NCTJ’s Journalism Skills Academy is hosting a special lunch and learn training session for aspiring female leaders on Friday 10 March. The course is for early-career leaders or those who aspire to be a leader in the future.

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